RUGBY: League success for Coleraine Under-15's

League success for Coleraine Under-15's

AFTER a two month lay off Coleraine Under-15s continued their league campaign with two matches in a week againstBallymena, with both sides vying for the league.

Coleraine playedat Ballymena onWednesday past andafter a very competitive and highly skilfulgame fromboth sides they lost by a margin of 10-0. This set up a must win matchforColeraine at home.

In similar conditions toWednesday, Ballymena played with the wind in the first half and immediately had Coleraine on the back foot, but repeated attacks by this talented Ballymena side were repelled by stout defence in which Callum McAleese at number 8led the way.

The centres of Ryan Purdy and Alister Irwin were starting to cause the Ballymena defence some trouble and typicallyit was Alister Irwin who opened the scoring, receiving a ball on Coleraine's 10 metre line showed speed and elusiveness tooutpace the floundering defence and scored under the posts.

Full back Shea Eastwoodkicked the conversion to give Coleraine a deserved 7-0 lead.

Playing with the wind in the second half Coleraine would have expected to control the second half, but this Ballymena side never lie down and scored a try of their own early in the second half.

This shook Coleraine into action and after a period of dominance Coleraine were awarded a penalty 10 metres out,quick thinking Alister Irwin tapped the ball androunded the defence to increase the lead to 12-5.

With the final whistle loominga late Ballymena surge resulted in a try beside the posts. This left the league being decided by the conversion, if the kick went over Ballymena were the league winners, and if missed the league subject to confirmation from the union was Coleraine's.

Inexplicably the conversation was missed leaving an ecstatic Coleraine team to celebrate a deserved victory. The jubilant scenes carried on for some time and this victory was just reward for a truly wonderful side.

Meanwhile, Coleraine Under-17's finished the league competition with two encouraging games against Ballymena.

The first played on Ballymena home turf was a close played game. Coleraine's weakness in defence, predominantly in the area of tackling, and some disastrous ball handling errors allowed the Ballymena boys to build up a full time score of 23-3 giving them a decisive win.

However, the Coleraine squad found themselves on the Ballymena try line repeatedly but were unable to manage the final effort to put points on the board. In the unavoidable absence of the normal team captain, Bill Black acted as captain and played a fine game as flanker, earning him a well deserved Man of the Match.

The second game played at home was an uphill battle from the start with the squad starting the match with only 13 men. Despite the very tough odds Coleraine spent much of the first half in opposition territory, twice threatening to score, and through shear hard work kept the score against them down to 10 points.

The second half started well with the boys once again challenging Ballymena for territory and initially looking like they could turn the match around. However, Ballymena tactics changed with repeated long kicks over the heads of the Coleraine team into empty space created by the lack of a wing/ full back. The last quarter saw 20 points put on the board giving the Ballymena team a healthy 39-0 victory.

A disappointing score for the boys to finish the league with but a game that showed the real grit that makes up this young side.

Coleraine U19's played their last game of the league in a quarter final match against a combined Armagh/ Monaghan team. Having progressed well enough in the league to move into the final play offs the boys travelled with a strong squad to Armagh.

The game started well with the Coleraine boys contesting hard bringing the half time score to 5-5. However, early in the first half James Wilkinson, had taken a hard blow to the head but had played on unaware of the severity of the injury.

Only minutes into the second half he was forced to leave the pitch with clear signs of a serious concussion requiring him to be taken by ambulance to Craigavon Area hospital. The injury resulted in Coleraine being required to play one man short for the remainder of the match.

Despite this Coleraine played on coping well with the difficulties of defence when short a player, but eventually found themselves knocked out of the league with a 10-5 loss.

A commendable game played by a strong squad who should go on to perform well in the Cup competition beginning this Saturday. Man of the match was a close run competition finally being awarded to all three back row players, Daniel McKinley, Jamie Liken and Luke Beattie.